As a Mexican immigrant, a frequent topic of conversation among my family is what life would be like if we stayed in Mexico.
Sometimes my mom likes to tell me that life would be easier in Mexico because she wouldn’t have to struggle to speak with her limited English. She also reminds me that, if I had gone to school in Mexico, my college tuition would have cost as much as a pack of cigarettes – a common comparison made in Mexico.
But I often wonder – would I have even gone to college had I stayed in Mexico?
I’m by no means the first in my family to get a college education. My uncle, like many of the people on my mom’s side of the family, earned his degree at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), which is the best university in Latin America. Had I stayed in Mexico, it is very possible I would have attended the same school. But maybe not – considering my siblings and I were the first to even attend high school on my dad’s side of the family.
I can’t really say for sure, but what I do know is we left Mexico for a reason – Mexico is just not safe.
In fact, the last time I saw my uncle was when he was working on a project in Baja California. I decided to take a day trip and go to Tijuana to see him and we visited Ensenada, a Mexican port city, where he showed me the shopping centers he was helping to build.
I had a lot of fun visiting some new places and getting to see my uncle again. But, at the end of the day, my uncle drove me to the border so I could cross back into San Diego before it got too dark. We both knew what Mexico is like at night.
Often, we take for granted the things that are the most basic, because we never have to think about them, let alone worry about them. Safety is one of those things. In America, my family and I don’t have to look over our shoulders every time we step out of our homes. Even when my family lived in a tough neighborhood when we first arrived in America, the threat of being robbed was never as high as it constantly was in Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl, commonly referred to as Neza, the city we lived in adjacent to the east side of Mexico City.
Nowadays, after dinner almost every night, my parents enjoy going out for a walk with their dog –even if it is dark outside. Both of them enjoy the fresh air and time to talk. And while my mom may point out things that she misses about Mexico, my dad responds, “Mira lo que estamos haciendo. ¿Cuándo fue la última vez que caminamos en Neza en la noche?”… “Look at what we are doing. When was the last time we walked around at night in Neza?”
My mom never has an answer to that question.
There are many reasons why I often think I was blessed with a little luck of the Irish. The fact we live in a place where we feel safe is one of them. But the most important one is the freedom that safety and security gives us – it gives us the freedom just to live our lives.
I’m lucky to live in America.